Achtung! UK facing looming shortage of linguists

Employers are increasingly seeking job candidates with foreign language skills at a time when the number of UK school leavers with language qualifications is tumbling, according to a new report.

UK facing looming shortage of linguists2
Research in London by Indeed, the world's largest job site, said that the fall in language students and a slowing in EU migration raised the spectre of a skills gap at a time when employer demand for linguists had risen by 2.7 per cent since 2016 - with jobs requiring a command of Chinese (Mandarin) increasing by 35 per cent over the past three years.

German the most sought after European language for UK employers

Overall, however, the report showed that German had overtaken French to become the language most sought after by UK employers, with Chinese climbing up the table from fifth to third place.Job vacancies specifying German language skills rose by more than 11 per cent between 2016-19, with those seeking Francophones increasing by only 1.17 per cent over the same period.Bill Richards, UK managing director of Indeed, said: “For the past three years, German and French have jostled for the crown of the most in-demand spoken language in UK job titles, and one of the reasons for this lies in the economic ties between the UK and Germany and France.“In 2016, Germany was the fourth highest inward investor in the UK and in the same year, exports from the UK to Germany were the second highest behind the USA. The UK also imports more from Germany than any other EU country.“Communication is essential in every sphere of work, and language skills in particular have become vital in a fully-connected world in which more businesses than ever operate across borders and in multiple languages.

The perfect storm: fewer languages studied in school plus Brexit uncertainty

“That said, many UK employers who require multilingual staff are becoming increasingly unsettled as a perfect storm brews: fewer and fewer linguists are emerging from our education system just as Brexit uncertainty looks to be deterring workers relocating here from the EU.“English is a global language, but that cannot always offset the need for fluent speakers of other languages. While the UK market clearly continues to offer many opportunities for those with additional language skills, there is a danger of a shortfall emerging as insufficient supply butts up against rising demand.”The research showed that, in the UK, there were 1,221 job postings per million requiring a command of German, compared to 1,152 requiring French, 643 Chinese, 567 Spanish and 531 Italian. Indeed pointed out that government data showed the number of students taking a language at GCSE level had declined by 45 per cent this century, with German (-67%) and French (-63%) suffering the biggest drops."Meanwhile, the supply of native speakers of European languages is set to wane as the latest ONS figures show net migration from the EU is now at its lowest level for ten years," said Indeed."With the prospect of Brexit pegging back the appetite of EU citizens to work in the UK, Indeed’s own research reveals a steady fall in interest in UK jobs among EU-based job-seekers."That decline, coupled with the rapid drop in language learning among UK schoolchildren, is colliding with rising employer demand for linguists and causing a worsening language shortfall."
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